County Durham-based medieval castle and ground, Raby Castle, has announced the full extent of its investment to enhance the visitor experience of the Castle, Park and Gardens.

A two-year major development programme, passed by Durham County Council in December last year, is set to restore and preserve historic buildings within the park and gardens, which have been “without purpose for decades”, Raby Castle said in a statement.

The scheme, known as The Rising, will re-purpose its heritage buildings and introduce new structures, the first phase of which will see the design and build of a bespoke children’s adventure play area to the north of the castle. Planned to be open for Easter 2022, it will also include a refreshment kiosk with a stargazing deck on the roof.

Phase one of The Rising development programme will begin later this year, led by the senior development team and the appointment of a project manager to strategically deliver the build, which is due to be completed in 2023 and open to the public.

The Rising development

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Lord Barnard and his family, who own Raby Castle, said Raby Castle has welcomed visitors since the 18th Century, but felt it was “still very much under the radar, and it has a huge amount to share.”

His motivation for the scheme, he said, “is to really open up the castle and the estate to a great many more people to enjoy.”

“With a new generation it is time for a new beginning, and we want to make sure that Raby is preserved for future generations to enjoy as well as our own.”

“I have memories of these buildings from my childhood, such as heaving bales of hay into the Dutch Barn when I was working on the farm during the summer but really these buildings haven’t had a lot of use for 50 years. It’s really time to bring them back to life for a wider audience to enjoy,” said Lord Barnard.

Lord & Lady Barnard within The Rising site before work commences

‘The Rising’ development plan

The Round House
A new, purpose-built visitor information building which will act as a point of welcome and orientation, as well as home to special tours, exhibitions and activities that are taking place.

Walled garden
Formally developed into a pleasure garden for the family, the existing ornamental garden will be redesigned to provide an outdoor space where visitors can move through planting or attend performances and events.

Coach house and stables
The buildings, designed by architect John Carr in the 18th century are Grade 2 listed, will be restored and repurposed to provide retail and interpretation spaces.

The Dutch barn
Currently hidden from view, the new visitor journey will allow visitors to access the Dutch Barn for the very first time. The project seeks to maximise use for this space, highlighting architecture features from the exposed beams to the chimney structures that would originally have been used to dry hay.

The Vine House
Redundant for decades, the Vine House will be repurposed as the Vinery Cafe, overlooking the former High Garden, offering a daily menu and will house some special events.

Play area
A new feature, the play area will offer play for children aged 4-10 years old and will be built within the original Christmas Tree plantation to the north of the Castle, Park and Gardens.

Gainford Hall
Outside of Raby Castle, Park and Gardens, The Rising development plan will also include the complete restoration of Gainford Hall in the nearby village of Gainford. Derelict for many years, the building is currently on the ‘At Risk’ register but will be restored and made available as a resource to the village and surrounding community.

Duncan Peake, Raby’s CEO said Raby Castle will continue to support the younger generation by providing volunteering, apprenticeships, placements and training programmes.

“New volunteering and work experience opportunities within Raby Estate itself have already been created and external relationships with agencies such as Durham County Council, Visit Co Durham, Historic England and the North Pennines AONBs will be fostered to ensure Raby continues to support its local communities,” he said.

“While this development plan includes the creation of new revenue streams and the expansion of existing ones, helping to support the up-keep of the listed buildings and the Registered Park, it is also driven by the celebration of the intrinsic character and uniqueness that is Raby and we hope the community will be proud of the castle and everything it has to offer.”

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